Showing posts from September, 2009

Avocado Tree Adventures

In Douala, soon after starting my life in Cameroon, I planted an avocado tree from a pit, in the back yard, in the empty area between the two houses in the family compound. Fulfillment of a dream, after years of trying to grow plants from avocado seeds as a student in Paris. A couple of years later, the tree was as tall as me, and thriving. Unfortunately, my father-in-law decided he needed the space to build an annex to his house. I protested. He informed me that my tree was none of his concern--just a silly little tree, in a country where many plants grow very fast and very tall. However, this avocado tree had enormous sentimental value for me! While I was stewing, an American agricultural engineer, Ben, on a business trip to Douala, came to our house for lunch. Upon my inquiry whether there was any way of saving my tree, he instructed us to cut off all the leafy branches, dig a large hole around the tree, and gently remove the tree with its roots in order to re-plant it elsewher

Duala Men's Attire

In daily life: work, parties... Cameroonian men usually wear the same clothing as in Europe, the US, Australia, and much of the Middle East and Asia: shirts, slacks, and so on. Traditionally, however, Duala men wore, and still wear for specific occasions, a large fabric fastened at the waist called a Sandja . Originally, sandja fabric was made of tree bark, beaten till it was fine and soft enough to be draped. In Congo, a woven style of tree bark fabric is still made today, called "Kuba" cloth. There were three different ways of wearing the sandja: Held up at the waist to form short sherwal-type pants*; knee-length; and the ceremonial style, still worn today, full-length. That is the style I saw the most, often called "Sandja Ngondo" because it is worn for the Ngondo celebration (which had not been celebrated for 20 years when I arrived in Cameroon). My first experience of men wearing a sandja was at funerals, when men wore a black velvet cloth, with a white shi